Second high profile visit by Liberals, four days after Trudeau

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Four days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brief appearance in Nunavut’s capital, another high profile Liberal dropped in on Iqaluit over the weekend.

The appearance of Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, on Oct. 12 signals the party’s urgent desire to reclaim Nunavut’s sole House of Commons seat as polls show the Liberals at risk of losing the Oct. 21 general election, or at least its governing majority.

Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, speaks alongside Nunavut Liberal  candidate Megan Pizzo Lyall in Iqaluit on Oct. 12. They touted the Liberal government’s plan for the repatriation of Inuit cultural property and remains. Rajnesh Sharma/NNSL photo.

Bennett along with Megan Pizzo Lyall, the Liberal candidate for Nunavut, spent about two hours during the early afternoon “knocking on doors” in the Road to Nowhere area of Iqaluit.

Shortly after 3 p.m. both Bennett and Pizzo Lyall spoke at Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in downtown Iqaluit where they were met by local media.

Bennett said her party is aiming to work with Indigenous partners to repatriate Inuit cultural properties and ancestral remains taken from the territory for archeological displays down south.

Pizzo Lyall added, “one thing that we’re always trying to do within Nunavut is increase the amount of tourism that comes to the territory.”

The two Liberals outlined no specific plan for how the Liberal government would facilitate the  repatriation.

When local media asked the candidates to provide more information about the costs and specific plans to deal with Nunavut’s housing crisis, food shortages, and high speed internet woes, no new information was provided. Media then wanted to know how Bennett could justify her visit to Iqaluit.

“It is about actually supporting Megan, in the way that we have, knocking on doors and meeting with people for the rest of today and tomorrow morning with the Francophone community,” said Bennett.

“We hope that this is about us showing how important it will be to have a representative who will bring the wishes of Nunavummiut to Ottawa, not the other way around.”

The Liberals are trying to hang on to Nunavut after winning the seat away from the Conservatives in 2015 with Hunter Tootoo. He was forced out of the Liberal caucus in 2016 and is not seeking re-election.

According to a Conservative party spokesperson, there are no plans for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer or any other Conservative to visit the territory before the election.

While Pizzo Lyall is getting support from some big name Liberals, Conservative Leona Aglukkaq, who is trying to mount a comeback after losing to Tootoo in 2015, said she has been focused for four weeks travelling the territory to meet as many Nunavummiut as possible.

Her goal she commented is to “hear first hand what matters most to the residents of this amazing and beautiful territory.”

When Nunavut News asked how confident she felt about reclaiming the lone Nunavut seat for the Conservative Party, Aglukkaq’s campaign manager provided us with a quote from Aglukkaqu.

“I’m not making any predictions or taking anything for granted. I am wholly focused on meeting with community members and learning about what matters most to them. I just want to encourage people to vote and am hoping that they recognize my experience as an asset.”

Also seeking the seat is the NDP’s Mumilaaq Qaqqaq and Douglas Roy of the Green Party.

During Iqaluit’s first snowfall, a brief press release by the Liberals was held at Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum. Housed in an old Hudson’s Bay Company storage building, this is the only museum in the city that displays Inuit artifacts. Rajnesh Sharma/NNSL photo.